Legislature(2003 - 2004)
03/01/2004 01:10 PM House JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HCR 29 - SUPPORT THERAPEUTIC COURTS Number 1055 CHAIR McGUIRE announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 29, Relating to support for therapeutic courts for repeat driving while under the influence offenders. Number 1067 JON BITTNER, Staff to Representative Cheryll Heinze, Alaska State Legislature, presented HCR 29 on behalf of the sponsor, Representative Heinze, as follows: Alcoholism in Alaska is a serious and immediate problem. Conventional methods of dealing with repeat offenders under the influence of alcohol aren't effective and are prohibitively expensive. The largest supplier of mental health care in America today is the correctional system. This is both ineffective and expensive. People with substance abuse problems aren't going to be cured or helped by locking them away with few if any treatment options and then releasing them after they've served their time. The average cost of traditional incarceration is roughly $113 per person per day. Over an 18-month period, which is the length of the wellness court's treatment program, that adds up to over $60,000. Compare that with the daily cost of the wellness court which is about $22 per day or roughly $11,000 over the 18-month treatment period, about half of which is paid by the state. You see a savings of around $50,000 per offender. The best way we have of treating people with addictions are therapeutic courts. While the alcohol- related recidivism rate for a conventional incarceration of alcohol and drug abusers is somewhere around 67 percent nationwide, the recidivism rate of wellness court graduates is about 25 percent. This disparity in success rates is attributed to the use of Naltrexone, a drug that inhibits alcohol cravings, coupled with community-based treatment programs and cognitive-behavioral therapy. In order to treat someone with an addiction, you have to treat the cause. To be most effective, the community as a whole must be involved. House Concurrent Resolution 29 asks that the legislature show its support for therapeutic courts' effectiveness in dealing with [driving under the influence (DUI)] crime. It also asks the Department of Law and the Public Defender Agency to actively participate in the startup of therapeutic courts in areas with high instances of DUI offenders where there is local support for therapeutic courts. Therapeutic courts are effective, comparatively inexpensive, and easy to implement. I urge your support of HCR 29. Number 1175 JANET McCABE, Chair, Partners for Progress, announced support for HCR 29 as well as for all therapeutic courts. She noted that the committee packet should include the 2003 update on the Anchorage wellness court run by Judge James N. Wanamaker. There is three years of data compiled by the Justice Center [College of Health & Social Welfare] at the University of Alaska Anchorage. This data illustrates that the [Anchorage] wellness court reverses the pattern typical of those who are sent to jail or treated in the traditional manner. In Anchorage, 75 percent of the those [charged with] felony driving under the influence (DUI) are likely to reoffend and return to jail. The aforementioned is an expensive cycle. However, 75 percent of those who have graduated three years ago from the [Anchorage wellness court] have been successful with avoiding recidivism. Furthermore, of the 13 graduates in 2003, none have reoffended. Ms. McCabe noted that those [who participate in the Anchorage wellness court] are the core repeat offenders for DUI. MS. McCABE informed the committee that the Anchorage wellness court is a tough program. Participants in the program have to remain alcohol- and drug-free for 18 months, during which the Anchorage Police Department (APD) monitors them with a bracelet that tests the blood for alcohol. Furthermore, participants take Naltrexone, which quells the craving for alcohol initially. Therefore, participants are able to stop thinking about drinking and actively participate in treatment. The participants are kept busy with the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, meetings with others taking Naltrexone, and various other meetings. "By the end of 18 months, they are genuinely changed people," she said. Ms. McCabe said this program produces better citizens and saves the public money. She noted that half of the cost of the program is paid for by the participant, which is viewed as part of the therapy. Number 1488 REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON moved to report HCR 29 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying zero fiscal note. There being no objection, HCR 29 was reported from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.